Monday, June 2, 2008

Teaching Credentials for Homeschoolers

I will do my best not to make this a long rant, but you really can not get more personal with me that this.

Many of you have heard about the California state appeals court ruling that parents who wish to homeschool their children must have teaching credentials. This decision is currently being appealed, but the court's decision is already having side effects. It has raised a huge question about what should the standards of education be. And does the current public school system in America hold up to the standards it would like to place on those outside their own system?

Since George W has been in power, there has been a "No Child Left Behind" policy mandated towards all public schools. This policy was created under the assumption that all children are capable of learning basic literacy and math, and should be able to grasp basic history, and science facts. Each of the 50 states is able to interpret and tailor their own curriculum to meet the guidelines, allowing them to achieve the results in whatever way they choose. In most states, they have created massive standardized testing in order to do this. (Here in Texas we have the TAKS, for example)

Now here's the problem, the schools can't do it! They have done everything in their power to look like they are, to continue receiving the government money. But there are some basic underlying factors that schools can not control. You already know what they are! They are all tied to socio-economic conditions. If you are white, you have a great chance of passing. If you are Hispanic, you are probably on the bubble. And if you are black, well good luck graduating. Oh, the test is not biased towards English speakers. ESL students usually still do better than blacks! And it's not biased towards kids with a greater grasp of "American Culture" because if you happen to be of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Indian decent, you probably just blew the majority of white kids out of the water!

What these standardized test results show us is that intelligence is only vaguely inherent, and instead has everything to do with our home. A child who is read to regularly in their pre-school years almost always does better in school. The same goes for children who are given music lessons. Do these activities in themselves make the kid smarter? No. But they are indicators of the importance placed upon learning by parents in the home.

Not all parents are equal. Some parents instinctively know what will help their child, and what their child needs for intelligence to bloom. Others have the wherewithal to go find those things out, so their child is still ahead of the game. Other parents don't give a care, because hey, they made all "C"s and they turned out just fine, right? Other parents care so little that for whatever reason, they aren't even around. So which of these parents do you think will have a child on the "honor roll"?

So let's call the honor roll the top 10% of students. I would say parents of those top 10% would probably be excellent homeschool parents. I would have no problem saying that the proof is in the pudding, pull your kid out whenever you feel like it! If a parent who cares enough about their child's education to push them to excel, while they are in school, chooses to pull them out, they will probably be great homeschool parents and insure that their child receives an even better education at home. But that rarely happens. Rarely rarely. I guess it's the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" mentality. Probably the darn kid is way too involved in sports, student politics, and the yearbook committee for the parents to think about pulling him out. Isn't that what they wanted all along? And yes, for smart, outgoing students, public school is an easy, breezy ball of fun.

But what about those students under the 50% mark? Half the kids are down there, ya know? Half the kids sure don't make "A"s, hope for the best on their standardized test, and cross their fingers that they won't have to repeat any classes, or go to summer school. Now these are the kids that are ripe to get pulled out of a miserable, failed public school system! They can't keep up in their classwork (homework), often have social problems, probably miss out on athletics and other extracurriculars due to poor grades in one or more classes. What do they have to lose by being pulled out?

Well, you must recognize that "No Child Left Behind" was created for these kids. The whole point in saying that no kid should graduate illiterate is to find the illiterate kids! Then get the kid the help they need. Not many schools do a great job at this, but if you're considering pulling your kid out, you should at least be willing to go and talk to some school counselors first. I'm not talking about trying to get your kid in special ed. It is very unlikely your kid needs special ed. What they need is help catching up, encouragement, and lots of hard work! (And not to be told they are smart)

So that gets us back to, who is the best teacher for the child; a parent or a government employee? How do we know if a parent will be a good teacher? One quick way to check is to find out if the new would-be teacher has a college degree of any kind. There are exceptions to this, but think about it. A public school teacher has to have a degree for a reason, doesn't she? You wouldn't send your kid to be taught by an uneducated bumpkin would you? Well, if you are a bumpkin, thankfully the government has provided that other option.

A teacher should be someone who loves to learn. To educate others you must first educate yourself. If you have not gone beyond the bare minimum, on to college, and adopted a life of continual learning, what makes you think your home is an environment that will encourage your child to do for himself? If we expect a public school to have a standard of learning, however poor, how can we not have higher expectations upon individuals who want something more for their child?

Many homeschoolers would say it's no one's business but their own, how qualified they are to teach their own children. But that's just like a parent who complains about seat belt laws, saying that only they have the right to decide if their child wears one or not. Do you see what I'm saying? If the child really matters to you, you will already be fulfilling the law. You will appreciate the law because it puts into words what you have already known to be a good practice. The law is merely a reminder, a standard of what good parenting is.

So they want homeschool parents to get a certificate... is that all?! Go to a few classes over the summer to brush up on your algebra? Remind yourself of a few Civil War dates? Learn how to plan your lesson plans in an organized, understandable way? Is that ALL? Why are homeschoolers afraid of this??? Any homeschool parent worth their salt wouldn't hesitate to get the affirmation that what they are doing with their child is good. They would jump at the chance to get new teaching ideas, and tips for staying organized.

There are strange occurrences where results-challenged kids come from excellent homes. Those rare cases are how the modern homeschool movement was born. Educated parents shouldn't be happy when their kids educations are suffering. Leave that to the parents who don't care. If you don't care, then there is no reason for you to homeschool your kid. Homeschooling takes a ton of organization, time, and effort. It is a full time job, plus overtime. Especially if you are dealing with a kid who is behind.

If you read those last three sentences with an attitude of, "Crap, I was hoping this wouldn't be too hard" you are not a good candidate. Let the bloated, broken establishment deal with your mess. Pay for a good tutor, is my advice. But if you read the sentences with the attitude of, "Yes! My child is worth it! I will do anything for him to succeed!" Well, I'll probably run into you at a curriculum con somewhere....


Duckygirl said...

Hmmm, you've got some great thoughts going here. I don't completely agree though. If it was mandatory for me to have a degree to homeschool my kids, well, I'd probably get one. But I do have a problem with someone making it mandatory. I feel qualified to teach my kids to read, just like I feel qualified to teach them hygiene, to potty train them, to teach them to ride a bike and tie their shoes...all things that people would think it absurd to have to have a degree to teach. Why then with math and reading and history is it different???

Just my thoughts...


Rachel said...

well, potty training, bike riding, and shoe tying are clear pass/fail abilities. If you wear underpants you've passed potty training! Literacy and math proficiency are a little more complex. How do you know if your child is a good reader and on level for math? Not that having a college degree innately endows that wisdom to you, but think about it from an outside evaluator's perspective. Who is going to be a better teacher, someone with a degree, or not?

And I agree with the issue of mandates. We Americans like our freedoms! But like I was talking about with the seatbelt laws... the minimun standard is necessary in order to hold those who would be neglectful accountable.